A unit of Lasting Forests
evolving since March 30, 1999
 
 

A Total Forest Management Plan
and Wildland Management
Decision Support System

 
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Lasting? Sustainable...?

Sustainable may not be the word with the greatest meaning for our uses. "It's sustainable," may not have the desired meaning to the question of " How's your marriage?"

Having many meanings and connotations (and these are still debated) implies using practices and approaches that assure that the present system (or perhaps a better one for the future) will persist. It means that sufficient profits (probably not constant profits) should be achieved over a long planning period, probably well over 50 years, maybe "forever." Sustainability formally means "ability to maintain an effort at a given level or intensity." The emphasis has to be on ability for even though a system may have desirable characteristics, processes and resources, it may have flaws or evident weaknesses or may have looming over outside forces that will prevent its existence in the near future.

In forestry and agriculture, it is well known that such stable productivity is unlikely. Production practices change; nutrients are removed. The efforts to assure sustainability are intrinsic to The Trevey. They are designed to manage successfully to meet changing human needs without degrading the environment or the natural resource base upon which achieving the objectives depends. Achieving sustainability is treated as a dynamic activity, allowing for and adapting demands in ways that do not reduce and do enhance future options for effective resource utilization.

Sustainability, addressed throughout The Trevey, also includes emphases or special actions in:

  1. introducing wide genetic diversity into cultivars to avoid genetic erosion and increase crop and resource efficiency
  2. gaining improved knowledge of host-plant and predator-prey relations and methods for using this knowledge
  3. developing integrated componennt technologies for reducing harmful chemical fungicide and insecticide use
  4. including sustainability topics in training programs
  5. developing a useful index of sustainability
  6. diversifying activities, products, and projects as well as work over a broad area, perhaps something identified as an ecoregion.

In the adjacent figure is the foundation of staff concerns about sustainability and its meaning. What if Q is a performance measure for how any system is performing (and it can be deer, profits, songbird sightings, or pounds of fish removed from ponds)? Then we can argue that in line A, the system has been sustained. It it flat-line. In the system described by line B, the rate is the same, flatline, but perhaps the drop at the end may be intolerable. The annual rate of change is is zero, but this is probably not what is desired. In the system described as C, the rate of change is zero, thus stable, but the instataneous break at about the half way mark is probably unacceptable to many people (or resources) for several reasons. This just points to the need for expressing the positive or negative character of the desired rate and suggests the need to state a time horizon...such as "into perpetuity." If D is a sustained system, on average, about average, and is sustained predictably and handsomely...but that may not be the desired pattern or greater constancy about a limited central value is needed. The slight decline at the end cannot be detected with confidence by statistical means because of the few, but variable years. The system in E is variable but it has been sustained,and fairly stable, for the period shown but the highs and especially lows may not be acceptable to some resource agencies or users. The shaded line in E may be what is desired...some system starting at a point in time, staying within set bounds with minimum excesses and minimum failures and continuing far into the future. The system shown asE may be desired because it has constancy, low variability, predictability, continuance, and seems to be "sustained", but, on reflection about boredom or desirable genetic variation to be respopnsive to all future challenges, even it is probably not the picture of the system that is desired.

Work over a broad area for the future will probably address arresting and reversing natural resource degradation. It will also address issues of declining crop productivity and how to double food production over 25-40 years. All of this needs to be done in the face of limited growth (or failures) in irrigation, population pressures and poverty, low inputs, cultivation of marginal areas, cutting rain forests, filling wetlands, depleting soil by cultivation, over-use of farm and forest chemicals that result in pollution, and reducing biodiversity.

Solutions are unclear but probably include coordinating, reducing duplications, using complementary practices, reducing competition, balancing endowments (money and resources) and joining in priority setting for projects.

We continue to study the topic of sustainability and believe that it is beginning to become firm in a clear statement of an objective, a mathemetical expression called Q* with a system performance measure called Q and efforts devoted to achieving Q* within stated bounds with minimum deviations and rapid recovery of excesses (such as shown in the dashed graph-line above and below E) for the lowest possible costs.

See the related chapter in Peculiar Manor and another in Lasting Forests.


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Last revision February 17, 2000.